Leadership Not Liker-ship
Many leaders want to be liked by those they lead. While this is a positive outcome of good leadership it is not essential to being a good leader. The basis of being a good leader is centered on a series of positive traits that appeal to most people and influence the likelihood that they will follow the direction of an individual. Although not all inclusive some of the positive traits of a leader include intelligence, self-confidence, integrity, conscientiousness, and trustworthiness. The purpose of this article is an examination of a personal leadership style highlighting strategies and interventions that have proven to be successful in motivating and influencing people to accomplish a goal. This is not a one-size fits all solution to leadership, but should help stimulate the reader to examine alternative leadership styles.
A Humble Beginning
It was a sunny Tuesday morning and a young Specialist in the United States Army stood anxiously in the formation waiting to be called forward. Suddenly the command was given - "Specialist Michael post". The young Specialist moved out quickly to the front of the formation and stood proudly at the position of attention. The commander called out "Publish the order". The words echoed in the morning air "the President of the United States having reposed special trust in the patriotism, valor, fidelity, and personal excellence of Specialist Richard Michael hereby promotes him to the rank of Sergeant in the United States Army". These simple words began a journey of leadership development that continues to this day. The purpose of this article is to examine the development of that leadership style and highlighting strategies and interventions that have proven to be successful in motivating and influencing people to accomplish a goal.
After the formation Sergeant Michael was walking down the hall of the barracks and was stopped by Sergeant First Class Brian Stoner and asked "why are you so happy this morning?" Sergeant Michael replied "I just got promoted to Sergeant". Sergeant First Class Stoner replied "Let me give you your first lesson in leadership. If you tell a Soldier to go get a mop make sure you tell him to come back. If you don't you will find him standing somewhere with a mop in their hand." With that Sergeant First Class Stoner simply walked away. What did he mean by that? Was leadership really that easy? Well the answer is no, but what Sergeant First Class Stoner was saying is that in order to be an effective leader you must be clear and concise in your directions to subordinates.
The Never Ending Journey
If the last thirty one years have proven anything it is that leadership style is an ambiguous term. Many people have studied leadership and categorized it into several different styles, but one thing is true no two leadership styles are exactly alike. The term that best describes the leadership style that has formed over time is participative leadership. Participative leaders embrace both transactional and transformational leadership traits. "Transactional leadership focuses on clarifying employees' role and task requirements and providing followers with positive and negative rewards contingent on performance" (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009, p. 358). While transformational leaders "engender trust, seek to develop leadership in others, exhibit self-sacrifice and serve as moral agents, focusing themselves and followers objectives that transcend the more immediate needs of the work group" (Kinicki & Kreitner, 2009, p. 358). The leadership style that has proven to be the most effective is based on mutual trust. Never ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself. Individuals need to believe that when they are directed to do something that the person directing the task has their best interest at heart. This theory has been tested time and again always with the same results. If you tell a Soldier to dig a hole they will ask why? If you pick up a shovel and start digging yourself that same Soldier will understand that the hole has to be dug because the leader is doing it themself. In that moment the Soldier has accepted the fact that the hole must be dug and moves into action to assist with digging the hole. It is this act of self-sacrifice that resonates with the follower and the trust between the leader and follower stimulates action to accomplish the task.
Reward is also a strong motivator that encourages employees to strive for excellence. Money and other tangible items are the baseline for many civilian organizations, but the military is quite different. Most individuals serve in the military out of a sense of duty and honor and it is for this reason members of every branch have shown extraordinary dedication in extremely difficult situations for little or no recognition. It is also the reason why something like a medal, which may have very little monetary value, can be priceless to the individual receiving it.
This is the very reason for the title of this article. While most people try to be friends with the people they lead they do not realize the damage that this can cause. People enjoy the friendship of a leader, but when things become difficult and the leader must impose harsh direction or punishment on someone they lead it is lost in the friendship. Instead of accepting that they have done something wrong and accepting responsibility for their actions these individuals feel that the actions of the leader are personal in nature and that this is an attack on their friendship. If you are a leader and are not willing to make corrections then you are part of the problem. There are three very simple rules that work well when giving direction to those you lead.